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October 11, 2013

Malawi's Banda Fires Cabinet After Corruption Scandal

by Lameck Masina

Malawi's President Joyce Banda has fired her entire cabinet in the wake of a growing corruption scandal.  The move has drawn praise from many Malawians, but some people think the president has not gone far enough.  .

President Banda dissolved her entire cabinet amid a so-called "cash-gate" scandal in the government's Account General Office.  Police have arrested several employees of the office found with millions in hard cash in their homes and cars.  

Addressing a press conference in Blantyre upon her return from the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, she assured Malawians that her government will spare no one in its effort to root out corruption in the country.

“I am aware that [police] investigations are still underway, so nobody will be arrested just based on rumor or smear campaign, but I will also not protect anybody," said Banda.

Donor partners, civil society organizations and the media have been calling on President Banda to take action against those involved in the scandal, who are believed to include some cabinet ministers.

Henry Chingaipe, a political commentator at the University of Malawi, says the dismissal of the cabinet shows that President Banda is responsive to people’s demands.

“I think this is welcome news, as there has been a popular cry in the country for the cabinet to be dissolved.  My view is that the dissolution of the cabinet is a sign that she is governing more seriously and responding to the wishes of Malawians in terms of cleaning and putting the house in order," said Chingaipe.

But another commentator, Mabvuto Bamusi, says the president would send a much stronger signal by ensuring that the implicated officials are arrested.

“There is something more that needs to happen beyond the dissolution of the cabinet.  For example, controlling officers are principal secretaries who are still intact there.  If I were to make a quick suggestion I would say that in the spirit of [the] Public Finance Management Act,  the relevant principal secretaries who were attached to the ministries, who are part of where looting is emanating from, should either be arrested or should be charged," said Bamusi.

It is not yet known when the president will appoint a new cabinet.  But a statement from her office says Banda will appoint new cabinet “in due course.”